Delivering on the Customer Mandate

Technology is giving businesses and consumers more of what they want: convenience, choice and control.

Talking about Apple’s approach to innovation and technology, Steve Jobs once said: “You have to start with the customer experience and work backwards.”

More than ever, that is true for companies like UPS.

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Our future is linked with the experience our customers have with our brand.

We know that our future is closely linked with the experience our customers have with our brand.

That belief is behind recent technology-enabled innovations designed to give customers more of what they tell us they want: convenience, choice and control.

It’s a clear mandate – and one that’s driving our entire business.

We’re responding by using emerging, maturing and converging technologies to make the experience they have with UPS the best it can be.

As we do, we’re playing a key role in the transformation of practically every aspect of the supply chain.

These technologies – and the new capabilities they enable – are having a profound impact on our entire operating model, from our people and processes all the way through our customer offerings.

Tech takes a leading role

Technology has played a supporting role at UPS since its start as the American Messenger Company in the early 1900s.

This was before the widespread popularity of telephones. But our founder, Jim Casey, had a couple of phone lines installed in a storefront office in downtown Seattle.

He and his employees used the newfangled technology to take messages from customers and deliver them by bicycle and streetcar.

We’ve come a long way since those days. Technology has gone from a supporting to a leading role at our company. We formed one of the first Operations Research departments in Corporate America after World War II, and for many years, we’ve been investing more than $1 billion annually on technology.

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UPS transformed from a logistics company to a technology company with trucks and planes.

In fact, advancements that drive business performance and enhance customer experience have transformed UPS from a logistics and transportation company to a technology company with trucks and planes.

Throughout our technology journey, improving ways we interact with customers has been a key part of our motivation. That’s why we look at technology not as an expense, but as an investment.

We’re certainly among the businesses today that know they’re no longer just selling a product or service – they’re selling a customer experience.

Business on the customer’s terms

At UPS, we have a view across practically all industries, most of which are undergoing massive disruption.

We see many industries transforming to create entirely new ways of serving existing needs.

We’re changing too, integrating our systems with our customers’ systems to give them newfound flexibility and capabilities. In the process, we’re using technology to disrupt our own industry.

New patterns of consumer behavior – increasingly built on access to mobile networks and data – are forcing companies to adapt the way they design, market and deliver products and services.

These empowered consumers are catalysts for a lot of the work we’ve been doing lately.

Like customers of most businesses today, ours want to conduct business on their terms, and they’re not very worried about accommodating ours.

Our direct customers – shippers, consignees and those managing supply chains – want a more immersive, immediate and interactive experience with UPS.

Mostly, they want UPS to help them be more efficient, more global and more responsive to their customers’ needs.

Our end customers – the millions of consumers we deliver to daily – expect to ship and receive small packages anywhere, anytime, scheduled or on-demand with information about their package always available.

Pushing the boundaries of e-commerce

More than ever, we’re responding to the needs and demands of consumers who are pushing the boundaries of e-commerce. We’re meeting their requirements and enhancing their experience with our brand through technology-driven services that use online and mobile apps that allow them to receive notices about packages in advance and take control of their deliveries.

There’s no doubt that the brown-uniformed package car driver is the cornerstone and differentiator in the UPS experience. But we are carefully evaluating all forms of technology and can see opportunities at multiple touchpoints to bring additional automation to our operations and across the entire supply chain.

These include automated agents powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning to help customers shop for, order and track their shipments; blockchain technology, which provides increased transparency and automates timely payment for services; autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles; robotics, which can automate the loading and unloading of vehicles; and smart sensors, which when connected to the Internet of Things provide real-time data and integration of information and services throughout our operation.

Of course, no technology has been more transformative than mobile. Mobile devices have become the Swiss Army knife and the enabler of heightened omnichannel expectations in all aspects of the customer journey.

These “flex” shoppers move seamlessly between stores and websites, constantly balancing price with assortment and immediacy.

Truly global commerce

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A smart logistics network resides on the foundation of clean, real-time and integrated information.

Our vision of a smart logistics network resides on the foundation of clean, real-time and integrated information across every step of the value chain. While the physical value chain has discrete points in time – pickup, dispatch and delivery – the information value chain can be continuous.

Companies that lay the foundation to capture data on this spectrum from multiple technologies and analyze that information faster and better than their competition will be the big winners.

If everything a customer wants can be defined, sourced, generated and delivered in a few clicks, the supply chain as we know it will be turned on its head. In the future, “global commerce” will lose meaning as all commerce becomes truly global. In many respects, that era is already upon us.

This article was adapted from Juan Perez’s remarks in San Francisco at the first-ever Mobile World Congress Americas.

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Juan Perez is Chief Information and Engineering Officer at UPS.

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